A Los Angeles city panel Friday killed a request by Browning-Ferris Industries to more than double the capacity of part of the company's Sunshine Canyon dump, a victory for Granada Hills homeowners and Councilman Hal Bernson.
Browning-Ferris representatives later predicted that Friday's action would worsen the region's landfill crisis and possibly provoke a garbage war in which the city would lose the right to dump at a proposed Browning-Ferris landfill in upper Sunshine Canyon.
By a 3-2 vote, the council's Board of Referred Powers rejected a plan by the huge solid waste management company to elevate an existing road to its 30-acre Sunshine Canyon dump site above Granada Hills and build other facilities to accommodate expanded dumping there.
Raising the road more than 50 feet above its current level would have the effect of deepening the 30-acre dump site bowl, making it possible to dump 500,000 tons of additional trash there.
"This plan rejection unquestionably accelerates Los Angeles' trash crisis," said James Aidukas, a Browning-Ferris executive.
There is no way to appeal the board's vote. Browning-Ferris attorney Christopher Funk said the company might ask the board to reconsider the decision at its next meeting and may sue. At the current price of $20-per-ton, the loss of 500,000 tons of dumping capacity could cost Browning-Ferris as much as $10 million in revenues.
"I'm very happy with the decision," said Bernson, who chairs the Board of Referred Powers panel and provided a third vote to reject the measure. "It means Granada Hills won't be subjected to increased garbage truck traffic and windblown trash."
"We're thrilled. We finally got justice," said Mary Edwards, a leader of the North Valley Coalition, a group formed to oppose Browning-Ferris' landfill projects in Sunshine Canyon.
The homeowners say they want to reduce noisy truck traffic and windblown trash, the consequences of having a dump as a neighbor. "Granada Hills is at the end of a wind-tunnel," Bernson told his colleagues in arguing against Browning-Ferris' application. "This landfill is in the wrong place."
To counter arguments that the city of Los Angeles was hurting itself by denying the expansion, Bernson told the other members of the Board of Referred Powers that the amount of city trash now dumped in Sunshine Canyon is "very, very minimal." The dump is heavily used by commercial disposal firms and smaller cities.
Browning-Ferris' defeat is far from complete however.
The firm still has the right to continue dumping at the portion of the canyon now in use until Sept. 1, 1991. Under a permit granted in 1966, Browning-Ferris is allowed to dump another 300,000 tons of garbage at this site, Funk said.
Funk said Friday's defeat did not mean Browning-Ferris would stop all dumping in the city. "No, it's still worth it to operate the landfill we've got," he said.
The company's Sunshine Canyon property straddles the city limit.
Browning-Ferris closed its landfill in the Southern Mesa area--another site, also located in the city portion of Sunshine Canyon--on June 30. That site had been used as a landfill since 1958. Since June 30, Browning-Ferris has shifted its dumping operations to the 30-acre canyon site, while hoping to expand its capacity by elevating the road leading into it.
Additionally, Browning-Ferris is seeking permission from the county to begin dumping on 542 acres in upper Sunshine Canyon, an area outside the city limits with a capacity of 70-million tons of trash.
The county Regional Planning Commission is currently reviewing the Browning-Ferris request.
Friday's decision by the Board of Referred Powers could backfire, Funk said later in an interview.
The attorney for Browning-Ferris noted that the county Planning Department staff has recommended approval of the 542-acre landfill, on the condition the city of Los Angeles be barred from dumping at the new landfill unless it allows Browning-Ferris to develop new landfill capacity in the city portions of Sunshine Canyon.
"The question now is whether this city action provides a further incentive for the county Planning Commission to pass this condition," Funk said.
The \o7 quid pro quo \f7 condition under consideration by the county is designed to force the city to take more responsibility for dealing with the region's dump shortage crisis, Funk said.
"Obviously, we were hopeful that the Board of Referred Powers would find that the interests of the city in helping find solutions to the landfill crisis would be more important than the parochial interests of a few people," Funk said.
Council members Joan Milke Flores and Richard Alatorre voted for granting Browning-Ferris the expanded capacity at Friday's board meeting, saying more dump space is needed.
Bernson, who got the votes of Councilmen Michael Woo and Zev Yaroslavsky, said that he was simply holding Browning-Ferris to the terms of its 1966 city permit.
Woo and Yaroslavsky did not comment.